QWe’re newlyweds and are mostly very happy. But now the general election is coming between us. My husband wants to vote Labour while I’ll vote Tory, and the issue is causing daily arguments between us. We’ve generally avoided political discussions as a couple because we both wanted to avoid treading on each other’s toes, but with this election everything has burst out into the open. Help!
AYou’re far from the only couple in this situation, especially with this most divisive of elections.
Presumably you discussed politics at some earlier point during your relationship and realised you didn’t always see eye to eye, which is why you avoided political discussions. But even if you are now shocked by each other’s standpoints, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. No couple agrees on absolutely everything. If they did, it would be both boring and, frankly, a little weird.
If, however, your political differences are causing daily arguments and upset — “Well, of course you won’t help me with the washing up. You’re a Tory!” — you need to contain them or you risk damaging what is otherwise a (forgive me) “strong and stable” relationship. You could practice what is known as “strategic topic avoidance” and agree never to talk about any topic, such as politics, that leads to irreconcilable differences between you. If that seems too extreme or difficult, then why not put your political arguments into a metaphorical “little box”, by choosing an agreed time slot when you are allowed to discuss the election, and keeping it closed at all other times, so it doesn’t leak into other areas of your relationship.
Or perhaps you simply need to learn how to argue better, or more productively — in other words, to get your points across without the discussion becoming emotive or personal. One way of doing this is by using “I statements” instead of “you statements”. So rather than saying “You’re a stupid Corbynite,” you say, “I’m upset by Corbyn’s x policy and the fact you’re supporting it hurts me because x.” This stops the other party becoming defensive or feeling they’re being attacked. Next, suggest they explain their point of view to you and see if you can come to an understanding. It’s also a good idea not to have these conversations when you’re stressed, tired or in the middle of something. Pick a time when you both have the time and space to talk.
QMy single friend often flirts with my husband when we all go out together, and it’s getting me down. She’s always been a terrible flirt with men, particularly when she drinks. I don’t think she’s trying to steal him from me — but it’s embarrassing and awkward and inappropriate, and it makes me feel very uncomfortable. Sometimes, she goes so far as to touch my husband’s knee or his hair. My husband just laughs it off, but I can’t help wondering if he secretly enjoys it. How can I get her to tone it down without causing offence?
ASome people are naturally flirtatious and, like most behaviours, that’s exaggerated when they’ve had a few drinks. It’s interesting you emphasise that this woman is your “single” friend, as if that status suggests some element of threat. If she flirts with everyone, and doesn’t mean anything by it, why should your husband be any different? After all, you say you don’t think she seriously wants to take him from you. The difference is only in your perception of her flirtatious behaviour, not her actual behaviour. Perhaps this is upsetting you so much because you’re feeling insecure in your relationship. Do you need more reassurance from your husband that he loves and desires you, and has no interest in her? You say you wonder if he enjoys it on some level. To be honest, he probably does –– almost everybody likes to be made to feel attractive –– but that’s only a problem if you don’t feel he’s 100 per cent committed to you. Maybe you need him to actively show that he doesn’t enjoy her attentions, by pushing her away (gently) and removing her hand from his knee, or by actively flirting with you instead. Could you talk to him about this and ask him to reassure you?
By all means talk to your friend too –– when she’s sober –– and tell her that you feel it’s inappropriate for her to flirt with your partner, even though you know she doesn’t mean anything by it. If you don’t want to offend her, make it your problem –– you feel uncomfortable and embarrassed –– rather than accusing her, or saying her behaviour is bad. If she’s a good friend, she should try to tone her behaviour down around you.
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